Week Ten: Five Things We Learned

We are another week closer to clarity as we continue the road to Charlotte for the ACC Championship in December. With some marquee match-ups and Heisman performances to boot, here’s what we learned across the conference in week ten.


1. Duke Let One Loss Turn Into Two

There is no question that Duke got robbed a week ago against Miami. Never before have I seen that many mistakes in one play by a officiating crew that perhaps cost a team a chance at playing for a conference championship. Sure, you can chalk up the loss to the many opportunities early in the game that ultimately could have cost the Blue Devils the game, but in the end, the game-winning kick return that should have been blown dead will haunt Duke and their fans for years to come.

The after-effect of the loss last week against the Hurricanes was felt in full force on Saturday against North Carolina. David Cutcliffe’s defense, which wasn’t very good to begin with, was absolutely torched against the Tar Heels on Saturday, as they gave up 704 total yards of offense and 66 points in the 35 point loss on the road in Chapel Hill. UNC quarterback Marquise Williams threw for 404 of his school record 494 passing yards in the first half in a game that was never close.

The train is officially off the rails for the Blue Devils, as they will try to stop the two-game skid and play better on the defensive side of the ball when they meet Pittsburgh on Saturday.

2. Clemson Will Go Undefeated in the Regular Season

This was the very last test for the Tigers.

All they had to do on Saturday was get by the #16 Florida State Seminoles at home in Death Valley. The Tigers were coming off of a week where they were slated as the nation’s number one ranked team in the first College Football Playoff Poll, and could have easily laid down against the Seminoles and their excellent rushing attack. Instead, the Tigers made the plays when they needed to, while the offense rode on the back of quarterback Deshuan Watson and his 404 all-purpose yards en route to a well-deserved 23-13 victory that clinched them the Atlantic Division and a spot in the ACC Championship in December. Clemson is well on their way to finishing the regular season undefeated, and should remain the top team in the College Football Playoff Poll which is slated to be released for the second time this season on Tuesday night.

3. Florida State’s Dalvin Cook Continues to Fly Under the Radar

Sure, the Seminoles lost the game as I spoke to above, but Florida State running back Dalvin Cook impressed in the defeat. Cook rushed 21 times for 194 yards and a touchdown, as he further stated his case for some potential Heisman Trophy consideration. Despite his consistent play week in and week out for the Seminoles, Cook remains one of the dark horses for the trophy, with Alabama running back Derrick Henry receiving more widespread recognition despite some similar numbers to Cook.

  • Derrick Henry: 1254 yards, 17 rushing touchdowns
  • Dalvin Cook:    1231 yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown

While Cook may truly be second to Derrick Henry, it is still baffling that he has been underrated to the degree that he has, even though he has played through hamstring and ankle injuries for most of the season. Cook is not considered to be even a top five candidate by the odds-makers in numerous Las Vegas sports books, which in no way, shape, or form makes any sense. All of this ultimately proves that Cook is undoubtedly the most underrated running back in the country.

4. Pittsburgh’s “Vaunted” Defense Was a Product of Their Soft Schedule

437 total yards. 42 points. Yep, this is what happens when you play a legitimate offense.

The Pittsburgh Panthers much-improved defense in 2015 learned the hard way that they aren’t necessarily all that they cracked up to be under first year head coach Pat Narduzzi. Sure, the stats looked good heading into Saturday’s clash against Notre Dame, as the Panthers ranked in the top 25 in nearly every statistical category on defense. However, after a closer look, it was clear that they are not as good as advertised. After the Irish gashed the Pitt defense throughout most of the contest, it became apparent that the Panthers defense was ranked so high due to the fact that they played games against Youngstown State, Akron, Virginia Tech, Virginia, and Syracuse. What do those five teams have in common? None of the five rank inside the top 80 nationally in total offense.

Improved from last year? Sure, but a top defense? Absolutely not.

5. Speaking of Soft Schedules, NC State is Going Bowling

I figured this is as good a time as any to complain about just how poor the North Carolina State schedule has been this season. I’m going to be honest, I thought that they were a good football team heading into the season, I really did. I openly said that if there was going to be a dark horse in the Atlantic Division of the ACC, the Jacoby Brissett-led Wolfpack were the betting favorite. However, what this season has shown me, despite the solid play of Brissett, is that I could not have been more wrong.

The Wolfpack are a bad football team, there’s no other way to slice it. They have beaten Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion, and South Alabama in the weakest non-conference schedule in the Power Five. In conference play, they beat two of the worst teams in the ACC in Wake Forest and Boston College, while losing to Virginia Tech, Louisville, and Clemson. Every time they play a good team, they lose. If you want one guarantee, it’s that they’ll get blown out on the road against Florida State on Saturday.

Trust me, it’s not like I’ve been wrong about this team before…
Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @MikeMcDanielACC and check out InsideTheACC on Facebook and on Twitter @InsideTheACC.

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